Thursday, August 15, 2013

Egypt health ministry raises death toll from clashes to 525 -

Cairo: At least 525 people were killed in Egypt on Wednesday, including 202 protesters in a Cairo Islamist sit-in, a health ministry official told AFP.

The death toll included 43 policemen killed in violence across the country and 202 protesters killed in the Rabaa Al Adawiya protest camp, senior health ministry official Khaled Al Khatib said on Thursday.

Egypt's press carried photos Thursday of supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohammad Mursi  brandishing weapons and throwing stones at police during the previous day's confrontations.

"The nightmare of the Brotherhood is gone," daily Al Akhbar's front page headline read.

"The Brotherhood's last battle," added Al Shorouk.

At least four churches were attacked, with Christian activists accusing Mursi loyalists of waging "a war of retaliation against Copts in Egypt".

The day's violence was the worst since the 2011 uprising that ousted president Hosni Mubarak, with an AFP correspondent counting at least 124 bodies in makeshift morgues in the Rabaa Al Adawiya protest site.

Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood spoke of 2,200 dead overall and more than 10,000 wounded.

The violence prompted vice president and Nobel laureate Mohammad Al Baradei to resign, saying he was troubled over the loss of life, "particularly as I believe it could have been avoided".

"It has become too difficult to continue bearing responsibility for decisions I do not agree with and whose consequences I fear," he said.

The dramatic assault on the sit-ins shortly after dawn surprised many, coming after officials had described plans to gradually disperse the sit-ins over several days.

The operation began with security forces firing tear gas before surging into Rabaa Al Adawiya, sparking pandemonium among the thousands of protesters camping there in opposition to Mursi's July 3 removal by the military.

After the worst of the violence, many Mursi supporters were given safe passage out of the camp, some flashing victory signs as they left.

By Wednesday evening, a security official said Rabaa Al Adawiya was "totally under control", adding: "There are no more clashes".

In the smaller of the protest camps, at Al Nahda square in central Cairo, police said they had control of the area after two hours.

Television footage showed flattened tents, as women and children flanked by police and army troops were led out of the square.

Dozens rounded up in the dispersal were shown sitting on the ground, handcuffed and surrounded by security forces.

Authorities later said calm had been restored across the country.

Europe's leading powers, along with Iran, Qatar and Turkey, strongly denounced the use of force by the interim government.

The White House said Washington, which provides Egypt with $1.3 billion in annual military aid, "strongly condemns" the violence against the protesters and opposes the imposition of a state of emergency.

Interim prime minister Hazem Al Beblawi praised the police for their "self-restraint" and said the government remained committed to an army-drafted roadmap that calls for elections in 2014.

The Muslim Brotherhood urged Egyptians to take to the streets in their thousands to denounce the "massacre".

"This is not an attempt to disperse, but a bloody attempt to crush all voices of opposition to the military coup," Brotherhood spokesman Gehad Al Haddad said on Twitter.

Interior Minister Mohammad Ebrahim said no more protests would be tolerated.

The anger against the Islamist movement was evident as residents of several neighbourhoods clashed with Mursi loyalists.

Clashes also erupted between security forces and Mursi supporters in the northern provinces of Alexandria and Beheira, the canal provinces of Suez and Ismailiya, and the central provinces of Assiut and Menya.

In Alexandria, hundreds of angry Mursi supporters marched through the streets armed with wooden clubs chanting "Mursi is my president".

An AFP reporter said they set fire to tyres and tore down pictures of army chief Abdul Fattah Al Sisi, who led the coup against Mursi.
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